One thing I’ve already begun to realize over the last year and a half, or so, is that bringing up daughters is complicated: Messages of empowerment and achievement are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety plague so many.
I know these things because I am still a daughter even though I’m now also a mother. I know these things because I never want Gialina and her sister to go through the hard things that I went through. I want to raise my girls to be their best, well-rounded selves despite so many negative outside influences in our world.
During a routine morning not long ago, I was looking in our downstairs mirror. I lifted my shirt to look at my stomach – I’d recently found out I was pregnant with Gia’s sister. I was checking for any signs of a growing baby in my stomach and caught myself feeling a little bit upset. I was upset because I selfishly thought about how hard it will be to watch my body grow through another pregnancy. Although the creation of life is truly an amazing miracle, it can really do a number on a woman’s mindset and body confidence. In my case, I suffered from an eating disorder during my early twenties and although I am healthy today, the negative voices are still there and will always need to be tamped down.
After checking myself out for a quick moment I realized that my daughter Gia had been watching my every move, as she always does. To my surprise and slight horror, she walked over to where I was standing and proceeded to lift her shirt to show her tummy. She clearly was just mimicking mommy, but this instance just goes to show you that your children are always watching, listening and learning from you.
I love having a daughter and I am thrilled to be a girl-mom once again, but nothing annoys me more than when someone says, “Oooh, two girls! You sure are in for it!”
I feel like I was born to parent girls because of the challenges I overcame that tend to overwhelmingly affect women. God gave me not only one, but two girls so that I could teach them to love themselves as much as I should have been loving myself through my eating disorder. I’m excited to be raising two strong little girls, but even this early on it can feel like walking a tightrope.
Part of me is so excited for their future. There are so many female role models out there for them to aspire to be like. Unfortunately, there are also things like stress, anxiety and depression that come with high achievement. When my girls grow up and are doing everything possible to be all that they can, I want them to enjoy it. Like any parent, I want my girls to have boundless opportunity, but more than that, I want them to be happy. The bigger part of that is making sure they are ready for whatever challenges they will someday face.
Know the impact you will have on your child – celebrate their uniqueness, praise their imperfections and instill social confidence.
I know that I will always try to raise strong, confident daughters, but I also realize that they will be who they will be. I can’t make my daughters be something they weren’t meant to be. I just hope and pray that I continue to be the best parent that I can be through their challenging teen years and young adult lives.
Looking at Gia sitting beside me right now also makes me relish the simplicity of toddlerhood. She is completely unfiltered and totally herself in this moment. In a couple of years she will be more aware of the opinions of others, but I hope she holds on to her own opinions while remaining kind, strong-willed and unique.